Communities and Kaleidoscopes


Staying Healthy Forever

My retina detached in early October, and I’m not sure how I managed to be awake and not freak out during my surgery to reattach it. Just reading about the vitrectomy and scleral buckling surgery after the fact makes me nauseated.

I would guess not many people can say they have been blind in one eye. Or have had to lie on their side for thirteen days, only getting up for twenty minutes every six hours (plus necessary bathroom breaks). I have survived both of these things, but it took an army of girl power rising up to help keep me and my family going.

What made this experience 100 times more terrifying is that I am the main caregiver for my youngest son, Luke, who has autism and is non-verbal. I—like so many other caregivers of children, teens, or adults with disabilities—know I somehow need to stay healthy forever. (Don’t get me wrong. I am so thankful for my husband, who is an awesome dad to both our boys. But, as a police lieutenant who keeps our mortgage bill paid, he is home less often.)

Surrounded by Support

The whole thing with my eye was an unplanned emergency, and I was amazed and incredibly thankful for the awesome women (girl power!) who seemed to immediately surround me and my family.

My eye doctor sent me right from his office to a retina surgeon, and my mom met me there while Mike held down the fort at home. Aren’t moms just the best?

After the surgery, I quickly realized that being home but immobile was pretty much torture. Luke is strong for an eleven-year-old, and he didn’t understand why I wouldn’t get up and do things for him. When he was home, I had to hide upstairs in the bedroom. I heard Luke’s meltdowns from behind the locked bedroom door, and I couldn’t do anything to help.

Because of this, two different sets of life-long friends opened their homes to me, so I could have part of the recovery time free from hearing the craziness at home. Friends and family, even some folks we don’t know from church, brought meals. A neighbor and her son helped with yard work. One of Luke’s Sunday school helpers, who is also a friend of ours, watched Luke before school, so my husband could get to work. Various friends and family visited me, bringing comfort food and drink and helping me put in my eye drops. Another friend read to me, so I wouldn’t get too far behind in a class I’m taking.

Faith and Healing

So many women giving of their time and talents. It was incredible to see out of my one good eye! And I can’t forget all the people praying—and continuing to pray—that my eyesight returns. We are all at different points on our faith journey, so I won’t assume we all agree, but I have to share the kaleidoscope story.

Laura, a friend I got to know better this past summer, called me. She said she prayed that God would give her an encouraging word for me, and the word she heard was "kaleidoscope." Honestly, we weren’t at all sure what in the world that meant.

During the night, when I went into the bathroom and turned on the light, instead of seeing one big gas bubble in my eye (put in during surgery to hold the retina in place while healing, and which leaves the eye after a couple weeks) I saw hundreds of different sized bubbles moving around. It was a kaleidoscope! If my friend hadn’t heard that word from the Lord, I would have been scared, but because she told me, I felt peace. As the days passed, the kaleidoscope got smaller and smaller until it was gone completely.

Now, I can be up and resume life, but the new normal includes very blurry vision in my left eye—vision that as of yet can’t be corrected with glasses. For reading or writing, I wear a patch over my that eye and play at being a pirate. It’s easy to slip back and worry again—about my own sight, yes, but also how it affects Luke. I am fine with him around the house, but he is a fast runner and gets away from me sometimes when we are out in the community—and that is with two good eyes!  I haven’t been able to take him out anywhere, and this is frustrating for both of us. But I’ve experienced how our loved ones and wider community came to our aid. That makes me grateful and gives me hope for the future.

Editor's Note: It has been one year since Deb wrote this, and now with the help of glasses or a contact, the vision in her left eye is correctable to 20/30 with minor distortions.


Debbie Abbs graduated from University of Illinois-Champaign/Urbana with a degree in journalism, and she works as a freelance journalist, blogger, and disability ministry coordinator for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Her writing has been featured in Chicago Parent Magazine, Autism Asperger’s Digest, and the National Association of Special Education Teachers (NASET) E-Journal.

Deb was a columnist with the Kane County Chronicle and currently contributes to Comfort in the  Midst of Chaos,  where she is one of several special needs parent writers. She also contributed to Joni and Friends in the summer of 2016 with "Give Them the Chance to Dig." Deb lives in Batavia, IL, with her husband, Mike, and their two sons: Brandon and Luke. Her journey in the special needs world began when Luke was diagnosed with autism at age three.

Want to share this story? Feel free to save or copy this image when you post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other social media site!

Want to share this story? Feel free to save or copy this image when you post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other social media site!